One could rightfully ask: Were Aston Martin at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix? A race in which they were so insignificant and off the radar, it seriously begs the question.
Autodromo do Algarve has not been kind to Aston Martin aka Racing Point back, last year – with the Pink Mercedes – Sergio Perez was only good for seventh, from fifth on the grid, while Lance Stroll crashed out having started 12th.
Fast-forward a year, things were far worse as Stroll was only good for 17th in Saturday’s qualifying, stranded in Q1, while newcomer Sebastian Vettel had his best showing in Green with 10th on the grid, albeit a mammoth 1.3 seconds shy of similarly Mercedes-powered pole-winner Valtteri Bottas. In 2020, that deficit was only a tad over half a second.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer summed up their Portimao weekend: “Obviously, we are disappointed not to have been able to score any points today, but the good news is that the Spanish Grand Prix is next weekend, so we have a chance to correct that in just a few days’ time.”
In other words, let’s forget that one and move on, but it is hard to expect in the five days, between races in Portugal and Spain, Aston Martin coming up with a magic bullet, with FP1 starting on Friday morning, in Barcelona.
“Sebastian Vettel. Grid P10. Result P13. Lance Stroll. Grid P17. Result P14,” will not make good reading for Stroll senior, whose Netflix antics indicate a zero-tolerance type of guy who is unlikely to have nice things to say after a forgettable Algarve weekend for his labour of love.
Szafnauer is hired to say those nice things and was unrestrained in his praise for a woefully below-par performance by his team: “Lance drove a good race from a less than optimal grid so never put a foot wrong and ended up finishing 14th in a race that contained very little attrition.
“Towards the end, he was running just behind Sebastian, but on fresher tyres, so we asked Sebastian to let Lance past so that he could have a go at trying to catch and pass the cars ahead, to give us an outside chance of nicking a point. In the end, Lance was not able to do that so, very sportingly, he gave the place back to Sebastian on the final lap.”
Sportingly! Handing back 13th! Imagine Seb moving over when the two Green cars are gunning for top spot on the podium…
Vettel might have been relieved, his weekend was not as bad as the first two, he reported: “That was quite a busy and difficult race with a very long stint on the medium tyres.
“I do not think we could have done anything different with the strategy, but, overall, we did not have enough pace or consistency to hold onto the group fighting for points.
“On the positive side, I will have some new parts on my car next week, which we feel are a step in the right direction. But the real priority is to have a clean Saturday, which is the key to a better Sunday.”
While Stroll, who had the new parts denied Vettel, had to concede: “It was not our best day, but I think we were a bit stronger in race conditions than we were yesterday. Ultimately, a challenging Saturday meant that we were on the back foot.
“The car felt better balanced in the race though, and we made up several places in the first half, but we just lacked that little bit more to make it into the points. If we had had a slightly better qualifying, points could have been possible.
“However, we will not dwell on [it] too much, but we will learn what we can and make improvements ahead of next weekend. We will arrive in Barcelona in a stronger position,” added Stroll with a touch of wishful thinking.